by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw
(63) Anatta, characteristic of Anatta, and Anattanupassana
What is “Anatta”? It means: “Yam dukkham tadanatta – the dukkha dhamma, as taught by the Buddha. Hence, the five khandhas which are called “dukkha” is not “atta “, a living entity. It is Non-Self, the “anatta” It is unmanageable and cannot be coaxed to become happy inasmuch as it’s inherent nature is “suffering”. Since it is unmanageable and uncontrollable, it cannot be called or regarded as One’s Own ‘Self’. As such, Anatta is a condition which is ungovernable, Let’s recite a Motto which embraces the said meaning:
“The Five Khandhas being ungovernable, are not Atta.”
If it is one’s own Self, it should respond as you may wish to happen. The five khandhas refuse to act or behave as you would desire, and comply with your demand. It happen according to circumstances, and under unforeseen circumstances, it happens against one’s own will. What is good and pleasurable may occur but it will not be lasting and will not continue to remain constant as you wish it to be. It immediately vanishes. Since they happen against one’s own wish, and are ungovernable, it should be noted and realised as “Non-Self” and Not as “Atta”. Hence, it has been stated as merely the characteristic of anatta and as a condition, uncontrollable and unmanageable, which would not happen according to one’s own wish, i.e. (avasavuttana karo anattalakkhanam). The Motto is couched as below. Let’s recite:
“Not happening according to one’s own wish, is the characteristic of Anatta.”
A Yogi who is continuously contemplating on the arising phenomena of rupas and namas will find them incessantly appearing and disappearing according to the relevant Circumstances against his own will. Therefore, he realises distinguishably with his own personal insight-knowledge that they are by nature Anatta which is ungovernable. This is the genuine Anattanupassana-nana. Let us recite the motto which has been composed in the light of the above:
“Finding it ungovernable and unresponsive to one’s own wish while contemplating and noting, and realising it as ‘Non-Self’, is Anattanupassana-nana.
Though one may wish to develop metta through meditation ‘throughout day and night by developing and radiating metta mentally or verbally reciting as “May all be happy”, it will not be possible to do so if perseverance and energetic effort are lacking. It would be possible if there is full accomplishment of strong will, diligence and resolution. Hence, it is ‘anatta’ Dhamma which does not happen or respond according to one’s own will. In order to follow up with an action to contemplate the nature of anatta, let us develop metta. Please follow the recitation.
“May all beings be happy…” (Repeat three times)
It would amount to contemplating the spirit of loving-kindness, the kamavacara kusala, i.e., merits relating to the domain of sensual pleasures, if serious contemplation is made so as to realise the marks of anicca, etc., by reciting from the innermost heart as: “May all be happy.”
Contemplation made on metta-Jhanic-mind by a person who has achieved jhana, is nothing but contemplating on mahaggata-kusala mind, i.e., the state of mind that is highly meritorious, etc. The only difference is between the nature of kamavacara and that of mahaggata-jhana, i.e., lofty or extensive jhana. The manner of contemplating metta is, however, identical. Hence, while contemplating the virtuous thought of metta, etc., when vipassana-nana becomes strengthened, Nibbana – the state of complete extinction of rupa and nama – will be realised through ariya magga-nana. Following this magga-nana, the knowledge of fruition (phala) will be attained. If such attainment is accomplished, one will at least become a Sotapanna. A person who has achieved metta-jhana, if he continues to contemplate and note, will attain Nibbana through the achievement of stage of Sakadagami-magga-phala and Anagami-magga-phala. In most cases Anagamiship is attained. If he becomes an Anagami by faculty of which he or she is entirely free from kamaraga (human passionate desires), he will no longer reach the abode of karma. Rebirth will take place only in the abodes of rupavacara and arupavacara, It is very likely that he or she may have his or her next existence in rupavacara abode called Suddhavasa.